It is truly fascinating to witness the slow, silent but sure growth in prominence of drug lords in this hemisphere.
While in Asia and Africa not only do drug kingpins remain elusive to any media encounter, they fight media fiercely to the point of threatening their media representatives with kidnapping and death.
In Latin America they are the subject of musical compositions, TV series, films and aggrandizement by lay people.
Even high-end fashion designers have fallen for the Latin crime kings.
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Legend indeed has it that an oversized logo displayed in shirts branded with the name of one of the most distinguished U.S. designers catered to the taste of Pablo Escobar — who wanted people to know he wore pricey clothes.
And for the last decade-and-a-half, Latin TV viewers and U.S. Hispanic Cable viewers have seen all kind of criminals parade across their screens in a never-ending display of leadership showcasing.
As we witness this development, our minds flash back to those days when Hollywood included the Italian mafia capos in its programming grid. Most talented casts were recruited to portray the lives of these crime bosses, which came through as essentially that: crime bosses.
And while the magic trio Brando-De Nero-Pacino executed award-winning performances, none of them depicted their characters as heroes or role models.
The winds of fashion seem to be blowing in an opposite direction South of the Rio Grande.
Crime bosses are seen as heroes irrespective of their responsibility in devising, ordering and/or carrying out the worst carnages in Latin America since the 19th century.
This newly acquired appeal has come bluntly to the forefront in the revelation by Mexican authorities and then the world press of the exchanges between Joaquin (El Chapo) Guzmán, the head of the Sinaloa drug Cartel, and Kate del Castillo and actor Sean Penn.
The award-winning actors seem to believe that the people of the Western Hemisphere need to begin to adopt the knowledge, skills and political standing of a man who runs an army of executioners who kill, amputate and torture any living soul who threatens their drug trade.
They further seem to believe that by disseminating Guzmán’s behavior, they will contribute to the liberation of the poor in Latin America.
It seems useless to argue that drugs are enslaving, not liberating.
And that their trade forces countries of limited resources to spend an overwhelming proportion of those resources in maintaining a military force to the detriment of expenditures on health and education that create human capital.
But perhaps the worst impact of this glorification of crime and its leaders is its corrosive effect upon the most significant asset to development: rule of law.
In a continent where the rule of law is an afterthought, creative people cannot turn their talent into well-being, as resources are captured by those with power and influence to tilt the playing field in their favor.
And as this pattern perpetuates over centuries, unbalanced societies develop where the few impose themselves on the many.
As the many are condemned to ignorance and poverty, resentment builds and blind revolutions take place that destroy all value-creating platforms.
Alternatively, the many are unable to build aggregate demand and economic growth becomes difficult and too slow to nurture an essential middle class.
At the root of this tragedy is the absence of rule of law.
Rule of law is precisely the launching platform of Kate del Castillo and Penn’s success in show business, leading them to become millionaires and develop a strong following among scores of fans.
But it seems as if they would rather keep this blessing to themselves while denying it to the people of Latin America.
Beatrice E. Rangel is president and founder of Miami-based AMLA Consulting Group.